A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Friday, February 03, 2006

TV's Bias

A post today from Dr. Helen's blog wonders if network TV isn't getting ever more PC and liberal in its perspective. Overall, I suspect it isn't, but I do think that as a show starts to show its age-- the initial shine is lost and their don't seem to be any really new ideas to explore any more-- that there is a strong tendency to fall back on the stock jokes. And given that the majority of writers, actors and directors in television are liberal, it is unsurprising that "venerable" shows like Will & Grace, Law and Order, ER, and the like trend toward the "easy" targets of conservatives, red-state knuckle draggers, and ridiculously simplistic stereotyping.

I've been rewatching Sportsnight, an Aaron Sorkin show from the late '90s about a Sportscenter type of show, wherein the producer of the sports show is Felicity Huffman and her boss is Robert Guillame. Great show, as most of Sorkin's stuff is-- especially early in their run. One show has a running gag about how Guillame's daughter is dating someone he d/n like. Cast asks why, is he a deadbeat? Abusive? Ugly? Guillame replies, no, he's a Republican. But he does at least admit that that shouldn't be a good reason not to like the daughter's boyfriend. There are also digs at the stupidity of our PC culture, and various other liberal things. So, while not balanced, it isn't heavy-handed. Cancelled after two seasons, the show never had a chance to wear its premise out.

Unlike Aaron's West Wing, which from its inception clearly had a bias in favor of liberals and Democrats, but always managed to leaven that with a recognition that "their" side does not have all the answers (as when Josh tells Donna she shouldn't have voted Democratic if she d/n want to pay more in taxes) and with believable (and likable) voices from the right-- as when they added Emily Proctor to their legal staff even though she's a Republican. But time rolls by, Sorkin leaves the show, and the writing gets stale and pretty soon the show becomes progressively less-balanced. Still good TV, but making less and less of an effort to be even-handed. You wind up with handsome, hispanic, fresh-idea spouting Jimmy Smits (Democrat, natch) vs. the old, cynical, white Alan Alda (Republican in a nutshell).

Same thing with pretty much any David E. Kelley show-- Chicago Hope, Ally McBeal, The Practice, Boston Public, Boston Legal-- they start off sharp, inciteful, quirky, and fun, and then slowly spin down into tired, repetitive, slightly strident and not all that much fun.

Oh-- and looking up Chicago Hope reminded me that Mandy Patinkin was in that show, and that he is now starring in Criminal Minds. Criminal Minds is a very good show, and if you have a chance to watch it, I recommend that you do so. Patinkin is good in virtually everything he's been in, from Inigo Montoya to Special Agent Jason Gideon, and... he can sing! The rest of the cast on Criminal Minds is excellent as well, and so far they have managed to keep the show interesting and non-polemical. Hopefully they'll be able to maintain that pace.

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